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AZ 6, Giants 7 - The End...or the Beginning?

Record: 62-64. Change on last season: +4

"It's gut-check time and the Diamondbacks are starting to puke on their cleats."
    -- Bob McManaman in today's Republic

As I mentioned in the comments during the game yesterday, this might have been the day when the Diamondbacks' 2006 campaign effectively finished...but might also be the day when the 2007 campaign started. William K noted that, after Chris Young came in to replace Eric Byrnes as part of a double-switch in the middle of the sixth, half our position players were rookies, giving us a real taste of what our lineup next year will be. And you could also add Tony Pena(rio) to the list, though his inning of work was awful, so we'll move rapidly on. ;-)

But as well as Young playing center - where he had a real webgem grab, running back towards the fence - we also had Quentin in right, Jackson at first and Drew at short-stop. Is it significant that we scored five runs in three innings after these changes, and only one in the six before the new hotness took over? Probably not. But we should now have three of the four mentioned playing every day, and that can only be good for our future, and means they will be that bit more ready for Opening Day 2007.

Due to this, I find myself in an unusually optimistic frame of mind. In fact, strike "unusually", and replace it with "freakishly", because this is the kind of performance which would normally have me kicking the cat. [And we don't even have a cat] Short, ineffective performance by a starter? Strike one. Error-strewn defense? Strike two. Bullpen implosion? Strike three, yerouttahere! All we needed was a few more first-pitch popups and the Grand Slam of Ineptness would be complete, but we actually out-hit the Giants 13-9, and had seven more bases than them, 20-13.

Whither Webby? For this was his third weak performance in a row, and the problems started right from the get-go, when he walked the Giants leadoff hitter in the bottom of the first, then allowed a hit to their #2. [A two-base throwing error by Quentin didn't help, and I'm not sure why the two runs counted as earned] It means he still hasn't gone past the sixth inning this month, and his line since that MRI now reads:
Webb: 16 IP, 19 H, 11 BB, 12 K, 13 R, 10 ER, 5.63 ERA
Just for comparison, those 11 walks match his total allowed in fourteen consecutive starts between April 8 and June 16. Controlwise, this is almost back to the bad old days of 2004 vintage Webb, when he led the league in free passes. "Off again mechanically," is pretty much all our ace had to say, though he wasn't helped by home-plate umpire Welke's small strike-zone.

[Speaking of pitchers with issues, we now learn that "Brandon Medders has been bothered in the last week by weakness in the back of his right shoulder." Bob Melvin - of course! - doesn't think it's in any way connected to the marathon outing forced upon Medders in Colorado, even though Medders says (emphasis added), "Since that night [in Colorado], both times I've pitched, I've been struggling to keep the ball down. I have to overthrow to feel like I'm even working out there, and I leave the ball up."]

Through the first eight innings, our offense was wearing a little goatee and swinging at the first pitch. :-) Yes, J-strada had a fabulous night, going 4-for-5 and driving in our first three runs, including a two-run homer that briefly tied the game up in the eighth. During the offensive explosion which was our futile ninth-inning comeback (like I said, briefly), Gonzalez and Tracy both drove in runs with their second hits of the night. But it was not the best of night for our rookies at the plate: 3-for-14, with eight strikeouts, Jackson and Drew fanning three times each.

Meanwhile, after Webb left, Valverde pitched two effective innings, fanning three. He allowed only one hit, an infield one, and even that was a blown call by the umpire, who ruled Tracy's throw had pulled Jackson off the bag. Tracy got his 22nd error of the year, tying Alex Rodriguez for the major-league lead at his position, but can feel justifiably maligned for this one, though his throw was (for the nine thousandth time this year) down the first-base line.

The real donkey in yesterday's game - booking his position as Lead Zero for the series - was Tony Pe?a(rio). His inning of work took a tied game and turned it into a non-save situation, allowing four runs on four hits and a walk. Remember back on August 3rd, when he'd allowed one earned run in 10.2 innings? Since then, he's thrown 8.2 innings, giving up eighteen hits, four walks and nine earned runs, and lost three games. I think hitters have figured him out, realising Pe?a(rio)'s got nothing but pure stuff, and are simply waiting for an inevitable error in location.

Typically, of course, with the game out of reach, we then proceeded to make things interesting, by scoring three runs ourselves in the ninth [okay, I see why Benitez gets heckled by his own fans]. Estrada couldn't quite come through with a 5-for-5 night, grounding out with the tying run at second base. We scored more runs that inning than in the previous two games combined, so hopefully that might remind our offense that those pieces of wood they carry on their shoulder are not for artistic purposes.

Although, realistically, it is probably too late. We are now four games back in both the NL West and wild-card races, which is not insurmountable with 36 games to go. However, Baseball Prospectus in its predictions, puts our chances at less than 10%. They predict 85 wins would be needed to take the NL wild-card, and we are not playing in a manner which gives me any belief we're capable of going 23-13 the rest of the way. Over the last 36 games, we're 17-19, and I suspect that's about how we'll perform down the home stretch. That'd give us 79 wins, near the level most predicted pre-season.

Thanks to VIII, scareduck, suitsmetoATnT, TheMainMan [I was joking, don't worry! :-)], azdb7, William K and trevjohnson for their comments yesterday. I'm going to end this here, since I've just realised it's a day game, which gets started in a little more than hour. Therefore, I'd better get the GameDay thread up pronto, and will work on analyzing the Green deal this afternoon. Don't touch that dial...

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Today: Too little, too late